So You Want a Belgian Tervuren?
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So you want a Belgian Tervuren but wonder if it’s the right breed for you. If you’re a first-time pet parent, probably not.
Belgian Tervurens (also known as tervs) are a very high-intensity, sensitive herding breed.
As a trainer, I don’t recommend the breed if you haven’t trained a similar dog before.
I had a terv named Jenny who I showed in conformation and she also did obedience, agility, as well as tricks. She also had her Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Therapy Dog International (TDI) titles.
Jenny was the normal terv: sensitive, high-energy, and a need to work.
27 Facts Good & Bad About Belgian Tervurens
1. Belgian Tervurens are One of Four Belgian Herding Breeds
They are members of the AKC herding group.
The four types were once recognized as one breed, but are now split into four breeds, differing by coat type:
- Belgian Tervuren are longhaired, blackened, and fawn or red
- Belgian sheepdogs are longhaired with a black coat
- Malinois are short-haired
- Laekenois are wirehaired
2. Tervs Have a Rich History as Working Dogs
They were bred as an all-around herding and guard dog needed by farmers.
Master breeder M.F. Corbeel in the village of Tervuren crossed black and fawn dogs which became the modern terv. Corbeel was a brewer and dog breeder.
The first two dogs he bred were used to pull his beer cart during the day and guard the brewery at night.
They are known as Chien de Berger Belge in Belgium. The dogs guarded the farm and its family and also moved livestock.
After the Industrial Revolution, when Tervs weren’t required for farm work because of mechanized farming, they were used for many other purposes, such as police and military dogs.
The first Terv was registered in America in 1918.
However, by the Depression, the breed’s numbers remained so low that they died out. The Tervuren had to be almost recreated after World War II from long-haired offspring of Malinois parents.
3. Tervs Are Not Recommended for Novice Owners
Because of their extreme exercise and training needs discussed below, they are not recommended for inexperienced owners.
4. They’re Very Active Dogs Who Need a Ton of Exercise and a Job
If you want a couch potato, a terv isn’t for you. They require an active pet parent.
If left alone too long and if not given a job, a terv will inevitably develop behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to destroying possessions.
The breed standard even says that they are “always in motion unless under command.”
So a walk around the block isn’t enough–it’s just an appetizer for a Belgian Tervuren.
They require at least two hours of exercise a day to be well-behaved adults. This can include long, brisk walks, jogging, running, hiking, and playing fetch.
They are very agile dogs and tireless workers. So don’t forget mental exercise through training, activity toys, and enrichment activities.
5. Recommended Jobs for Belgian Tervuren
Current tervs serve in the following functions in addition to being beloved family members:
- Military and police K-9s
- Drug detection
- Herding dogs
- Service dogs for the disabled
- Search and Rescue
- Dog sledding
- Dock Diving
- Canine freestyle
- Conformation dogs
- Competitive obedience dogs
- Rally dogs
- Agility dogs
- Trick dogs
- Schutzhund (protection) activities
6. Socialization’s Crucial for a Terv To Not Become Overly Protective
Although all dogs should be properly socialized, if a terv isn’t, he’s more likely than many breeds to become overly protective and aggressive.
So introduce him from puppyhood on to everything that he will need to face in everyday life, such as: a wide variety of people, friendly dogs, and new situations and places.
7. Daily and Lifelong Obedience Training’s Required
Although all breeds require training, a terv is an exceptionally intelligent dog who will wilt without it.
A bored Belgian Tervuren will become destructive and will decide what is and isn’t acceptable behavior.
You need to demonstrate through consistent, ongoing obedience training that you are a leader.
They are an independent, headstrong breed and will make their own decisions otherwise.
Use positive reinforcement and make the training a fun game. After all, tervs love to play.
Training shouldn’t be a problem because they love to learn new things. And they love to be with their people.
They have a strong herding drive and need to learn a reliable recall and “leave it” in any circumstance, so that they don’t herd other people and moving objects.
Teach them basic and advanced obedience cues and tricks. Do nosework with them. Try herding. Take them to training classes. The sky’s the limit.
My terv Jenny and I participated in many activities: conformation, obedience, tricks, and fun agility.
If she didn’t train daily in some activities, it would have been very difficult to live with her.
8. They Have a Very Sensitive, Playful Temperament
Even though Belgian Tervuren dogs are independent because of their extreme intelligence, they are also a sensitive breed attuned to their pet parents’ moods.
So they will read if you’re sad or happy and will comfort or celebrate with you–whatever’s appropriate.
They also need to be trained and dealt with in a calm, exacting manner because they are very sensitive.
If you’re too harsh with them, they will either shut down or become defensive.
They love to play and can even be silly.
9. Beware of Poor Specimens With Aggressive Temperaments
Unfortunately, poorly bred, trained, or socialized tervs can be walking time bombs.
Because of their naturally protective nature genetically, they can become aggressive if not bred and raised correctly.
So get your Belgian from a reputable breeder or rescue.
10. They’re Beautiful, Flashy, Elegant-Looking Dogs
If you want a stylish, elegant dog who will stand out when you enter a room, a terv will certainly meet that requirement.
They have a straight, abundant coat with dark tips to their hair and a black mask to their muzzle.
They should appear to be a well-balanced, medium-size dog, elegant in appearance, standing squarely on all fours.
They should have a proud carriage of their head and neck.
Tervs are strong, agile, well-muscled, observant, and full of life. Their erect ears give them an alert look.
They have a muscular frame with a sporty collarette of hair around their neck.
11. They come in the Following Colors:
- Fawn and black (standard color)
- Mahogany and black (standard color)
- Gray and black
- Silver and black
- Cream and black
- Fawn and liver
- Mahogany and liver
And they have the following markings:
- White markings
- Black mask
- Black markings
- Black points
12. They Are Generally Healthy, But Can Have Certain Health Problems
Make sure that you get your terv from a responsible breeder who screens breeding stock for health problems.
Tervs are generally a healthy breed. But, as is true with many purebred dogs, tervs can be prone to certain health problems:
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Progressive retinal atrophy which can cause vision loss and blindness
- Thyroid problems
- Von Willebrands disease
- Dental problems
- Physiologic Leukopenia in older Belgians
- Skin allergies (atopy)
- Retained testicle in males
13. They Are Good With Children and Other Dogs
Of course, a terv must be properly socialized and trained. Then, they can be good with respectful children and friendly dogs.
Because of their prey drive, though, they may chase small animals, including cats, if not raised with them while young.
14. They Love Spending Time With Their Family
Tervs are very bonded and very loyal to family members. And, if their physical and mental exercise needs are met, love snuggling with their family.
15. They Require Grooming and Shed
Belgian Tervurens have a double-layer coat with a dense, protective undercoat covered by a harsh overcoat.
In order for their long coat to remain in tip-top shape and not be matted, they require a thorough brushing once or twice a week with a pin brush and slicker brush for about 15 to 20 minutes each session.
This will remove excess hair, dirt, debris, and tangled fur.
They shed year-round. During shedding season, which occurs at least once per year, they require more frequent grooming also requiring a grooming rake.
Shedding season usually occurs with the change of seasons during the spring and fall. Then, grooming can take more than a half hour each session.
Bathe as needed, depending on how dirty your terv becomes, unusually once every month or two. Also check and clean their ears regularly and clip their nails as needed.
16. They Aren’t Hypoallergenic
Although no dog is truly hypoallergenic, some are nearly so such as poodles and bichon frise. However, a terv’s double coat sheds and has dander.
17. They Have a Protective Nature and Tend To Bark
Even when properly socialized and trained, a terv genetically is predisposed to be protective. They are devoted to their families. But this doesn’t mean that they should be aggressive.
A Belgian Tervuren should be able to distinguish friend from foe. And he will bark when he senses that something’s wrong.
So they generally don’t make good dogs for apartments or when a lot of people are coming and going.
If you’re looking for a dog who loves everyone like a golden or lab would, a terv is not for you.
They are neutral and aloof towards strangers you welcome but don’t fawn over newcomers.
They should just stand their ground, be confident, and accept approaches by friendly people. But they won’t approach others themselves.
Most tervs are suspicious of strangers unless their pet parent tells them to accept the stranger.
However, fear and aggression are both flaws in a terv’s temperament.
My terv Jenny accepted my friends but really didn’t care about others. She just ignored them.
18. They Are Medium-to-Large Sized Dogs
Belgian Tervuren’s are medium to large sized dogs.
- Males stand between 24 and 26 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 and 75 pounds
- Females stand between 22 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 45 and 60 pounds
19. Males and Females Appear Differently
In addition to size and weight differences, male tervs should appear to be masculine and females feminine.
20. They Are a Long-Lived Breed
Tervs have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years
21. They’re 104th of 284 in Popularity of AKC Breeds
If you’re looking for a dog who is flashy and not too popular, a terv may be for you.
You won’t see them on every street corner, that’s for sure.
22. They Can Become Obese
Tervs are more likely than some other breeds to become obese. So don’t overfeed them or provide too little exercise.
But, because they are always in motion, unless a terv is excessively fed and under-exercised, they probably won’t become overweight.
I had to feed my terv Jenny more than I normally would a dog her size in order for her to remain a healthy weight.
23. Tervs Have Been in the Limelight
Some tervs have been famous.
- In the movie The Company of Wolves, tervs portrayed the wolves
- Artist Clarys featured a terv in a famous painting in the early 20th century
- Topper was famous search dog at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995
- On October 30, 2005, a terv named Rival achieved the very first CH OTCH MACH Belgian Tervuren (this means that she achieved a breed Championship, the highest obedience title, and the highest agility title)
- The first AKC Herding Champion was a Belgian
24. They Have Large Litters
The average litter size is 6 to 10 puppies.
25. Meet the Parents
If possible, meet both parents of the puppy you’re thinking of getting. Even if you can’t meet the male (aka the sire), you should be able to meet the breeding mother.
Even though puppies can vary in temperament within a litter, you can get an idea of the temperament of the puppies by meeting the parents.
The parents should not be fearful or aggressive. They should just be standoffish but approachable.
When I got my terv, both parents were on the premises. The mother was standoffish, but the father was very friendly (which is not common in the breed). He was even playful with us and brought us his squeaky toy to play fetch with.
When choosing a puppy, choose a middle-of-the-road puppy.
Most good breeders of tervs will have some titles on the breeding parents, such as a Championship in conformation and/or working titles in herding, obedience, rally, or Schutzhund.
And reputable breeders will have performed the required health tests on the breeding parents.
26. They Are Expensive
Because they are relatively rare, a well-bred terv is usually expensive.
The cost varies from breeder to breeder and can depend on where they are located and whether the puppy is considered to be show or pet quality.
Over two decades ago, I paid $1,300 for my terv. Currently, you can pay well over $2,000 for a well-bred specimen.
27. You Can Get a Terv from a Great Rescue or Breeder
The following are resources for obtaining a Belgian Tervuren:
I’m thinking about getting a Belgian Tervuren but I live in an apartment. Would this be a good dog for me?
Probably not. Tervs are protective dogs and will bark to alert if something is new.
So the hustle and bustle of places with a lot of people can be difficult for them because of their sensitive and naturally protective nature.
Are Belgian Tervurens aggressive?
No. A well-bred terv who is properly trained and socialized shouldn’t be aggressive. They can be standoffish with strangers but not aggressive.
However, a Belgian can tell friend from foe and can be protective of his people.
I’ve never had a dog before and love the beautiful appearance of Belgian Tervurens. Would this breed be a good fit?
No. They are very intense, intelligent, sensitive dogs who require more mental and physical exercise than many breeds.
Research their needs and don’t go by appearances when choosing a dog.
The Belgian tervuren breed isn’t for first-time dog owners. And even if you’ve had a dog before, make sure that you understand the dog’s needs and that you can meet them before getting a terv.
Tervs are an intense working breed who aren’t happy being couch potatoes. They require a lot of physical and mental exercise.
And they need regular coat care and shed–profusely one or two times per year.
Are you thinking about getting a Belgian Tervuren? Has this article been helpful in making your decision? Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
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